by Anitha Santhanam, Bangalore 
e-mail: anitha_santhanam@yahoo.com 

December 2002

Between the great dancers of the past for whom the very thought of aramandi is tiring now, and the mediocre amateurs (from India and abroad) performing non-stop at empty sabha halls, Bharata Natyam takes a solid beating. And you think this form is going to die without a whimper. Then miraculously you watch G Narendra and his group Avigna perform at the Guruvayurappan Samaj in Bangalore and come out rejuvenated and full of hope that this potent form will survive the mediocrity and the nasty sabha politics.

In Narendra's work the body, mind and spirit come together to create an explosive presentation as in Dasavathara, the pivotal piece of the Bangalore show. Besides the fantastic Nritta and group choreography, what was very heartening to watch, was that each episode did not turn out to be a boring re-run of the previous (in the predictable 'Vishnu-defeats-demon' sequence) as it often turns out in Dasavathara presentations. For instance the anger of Varaha was different from the blood-curdling roar of Narasimha. Not only was Vishnu's portrayal different but also the demons'. CA Joy (truly joyous to watch) played a brilliant cameo as Hiranya Kasipu.  

The performance opened with a lively Ganesha stuthi (where Ganesha moves in a procession complete with the moonjooru (mouse) and kodai (umbrella) and was followed by an effervescent Ula. Narendra's Kalakshetra training serves him well and is obvious in the spatial patterns of his choreography. 

Dasavathara was followed by a mellow Javali - a moving textured solo by Narendra. If you are tired of watching padams and javalis performed by plastic faces, where static abhinaya  (not sthayi bhava) rule the roost, you must watch Narendra for abhinaya that comes from the depths of the soul.  

In all it was a rare treat to watch Avigna perform, and you came out feeling high and uplifted. One hopes that we get to see more of Narendra and his group in Bangalore. 

Anitha Santhanam is a senior dancer of the Stem ensemble in Bangalore.